Miskatonic University Press

Butter and Egg Man

(You may have arrived here from Twists, Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang, where “butter and egg man” is mentioned.)

Ken Yousten (kyousten@bev.net) sent me this passage from Texas Guinan: Queen of the Night Clubs, by Louise Berliner.

The El Fey Club, a hotbed for news and excitement. Even if the shows were the same every night, the audiences never were, nor the spontaneous entertainment. One night a man with a slow midwestern drawl came in and cheerfully began dispensing fifty-dollar bills to all the dancers. He bought everyone in the house a drink and made no fuss when he got the bill. Thrilled by this rare phenomenon, Tex decided that her guest needed a proper introduction. Leading the dandy to the center of the dance floor, at this time the size of a small white envelope, she signaled for a distinguished drum roll and said,

“Folks, here’s a live one, a buyer, a good guy, a sport of the old school, encourage him.”

There was applause and cries of:

“Who is he?”

“What’s your name?” asked Tex.

“Nix on the name,” said the unknown.

“What’s your racket, then?” queried the hostess.

“I’m a big man in dairy produce,” he muttered.

“That’s applesauce to this mob. I’ll send you right in,” and Tex shouted,

“He’s a big butter and egg man.”

Night after night, the big spender came in and ran up large bills. Everyone soon knew him as the big butter-and-egg man, and the expression quickly spread throughout New York. George S. Kaufman immortalized it by making it the title of a Broadway play about a rich midwestern sucker so free with his money that some smart Easterners take him for a ride.